Looking forward in green and gold anticipation
University of Regina sports fans are accustomed to a mixed bag of results by now, and last season was no exception. We had some team cuts, some players/games disqualified, and some tough losses during championship season. We did have a few great successes as well, but all of that is in the past now. It’s the off-season. Now is the time for big dreams and fresh hopes for a successful season.
It’s time for training camps, summer league, and final preparations to open the season in September. In all varsity sports, a new season brings new faces as rookies step up to fill the shoes of graduating veterans. For some teams this means losing key pieces, while others look for fresh blood to kickstart a strong 2019 campaign. Regardless of how last season went all the Cougar teams look to 2019 with one goal in mind: win more games.
The University of Regina women’s soccer team comes off a tough 2018 season, where they finished 3-9-2 in Canada West competition. Although that record was good enough for them to squeeze into the playoffs, they ultimately lost their Canada West Play-In to the MacEwan Griffins. This result outshines their 1-7-6 record in 2017 where they failed to qualify for the playoffs, but it’s nothing to write home about. The Cougars hope to build on last season and try to make a deeper playoff run in 2019.
Despite last year’s rocky finish, the future is looking brighter. The Cougars are a young team, with only ten potential fourth and fifth-years on their thirty-five-player roster. One of these returning fifth-years, Sydney Langen, expects the youth to help breathe life into the Cougars 2019 season.
“We have quite a young team, so we want everyone to step up to the plate and push us veterans to be better. We have lots of pace up front who will hopefully score more goals and get us deeper into the playoffs.”
The Cougars also have a strong batch of rookies coming in for 2019, including local Regina players Olivia Gables, Natalia McCullough, Emma Davidson and Chloe Langen. These new faces will get their chance to shine at the Cougars biennial tournament, an opportunity Langen thinks will be great for the team’s development.
“It’s a really good way to test out the teams – a lot of teams won’t play their starting line-up; they want to get the other girls on the pitch to get varsity experience and it gives them a chance to prove themselves.”
After their mid-August tournament, the Cougars begin their season in September.
It’s a new year and a new-look season for the Regina Rams both in the locker-room and on the field. The 2019 roster loses many of last year’s key pieces on offence including both starting quarterback Noah Picton, who was recently released from the Toronto Argonauts, and all-time rushing leader Atlee Simon now of the Calgary Stampeders. The Rams also lose rising second-year running back Kyle Borsa to a suspension after a positive drug test. Borsa led Canada West with six rushing touchdowns and rushed for 613 yards in only three starts.
The team also looks to move on from a tough season off the field, where an ineligible player forced the Rams to forfeit the first five games of their season. This disqualification effectively ended their season, leaving them out of Canada West playoff competition for the first time since 2015. Despite the difficult circumstances and the new faces, third year Offensive Lineman Andrew Becker is confident that the Rams will be able to bounce back.
“[Last season] was heart-breaking, but it motivates us. The guys are ready to move on with something to prove. We are motivated by how last season went, but I don’t think that will weigh heavily on our minds. We are focused on competing this season and leaving that in the past.”
Becker also has strong confidence in the team’s ability to fill the holes left by graduations, especially after a strong spring training camp for the new-look roster.
“We have a lot of guys in the system that have been groomed for bigger roles as well as a top-five recruiting class. We have a lot of young pieces who will be asked to step up and some great players coming in.”
One of these players who will be asked to step up is second-year quarterback Josh Donnelly. In 2018, the rookie was only the third first-year in team history to start a Canada West conference game after injuries to starter Noah Picton and backup Seb Britton. Heading into his second season, look for Donnelly to take a bigger role on offense.
When it comes down to team goals for the season, for Becker, the endgame is clear.
“It comes down to winning, we’ll look to compete against all the teams we play against and clinch a playoff berth and then the end goal is the Vanier Cup.”
The Rams will begin their 2019 campaign with a pre-season home game against Manitoba on Aug. 21. They begin conference competition on the road against UBC on Aug. 31 and follow that up with their home-opener on Sept. 6 against Alberta.
This will be an exciting season for the Cougars cross country teams as it is the first year Canada West will be hosting a sperate Cross Country championship, an opportunity that is exciting for 2018 President’s Award winner Greg Hetterly.
“This is the first year we have a Can West Championship for cross country, so my personal goal is to finish in the top fifteen.”
Beyond his personal goals, as a veteran and team leader Greg has lofty goals for his team at the inaugural championships.
“Our team goal is to place higher than last year – we’ve got a young team focused on middle distance, so it’s a big jump to hit a 10km, but we hope to finish top four at Canada West.”
This young team includes outstanding recruit Ron Maclean. The local Regina athlete, who competed for Sheldon-Williams Collegiate, is the 2018 Canadian U-18 cross country champion. For Hetterly, this addition to the team could be a game changer.
“He’s used to running six kilometers, so it will be a jump to ten kilometers for him, but he will make an impact for sure.”
While cross country poses an exciting opportunity for the fall, Cougars athletes are still in action over the summer, albeit on the track. A contingent of Regina athletes led by U Sports rookie of the year Joely Welburn were in action in California at the Steve Scott Classic and the Oxy Invite. Competing for Regina, incoming third year Shane Patmore finished top ten in the Long Jump at both events.
Cougars Welburn and Hetterly will be back in action on June 20 in Vancouver at the prestigious Harry Jerome Track Classic and will close out their summer season at Canadian Nationals in Montreal from July 25-28. The Cougars then officially open their cross country season at the Cougar Trot in September.
As of this article the inaugural Canada West championship dates and location are to be announced.